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The Big Read Features Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

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Hartford Public Library's 2018 "Big Read" book is Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine.

Rankine’s subject is race, particularly anti-black racism in the United States. Focusing on contemporary issues, it includes an essay on tennis player Serena Williams, a tribute to Trayvon Martin, and a meditation on Hurricane Katrina. Citizen features many styles of writing, photographs, and original art.  In that spirit Hartford Public Library’s “Big Read” is celebrating the book with a variety of progamming and events.

"The Big Read" is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. 

Join us for an evening with Claudia Rankine at the Downtown Branch on Thursday, April 26 starting at 5:00pm.

5:00 - Refreshments

5:30 - TNMOT AZTRO Citizen Dance Installation (Atrium)

6:00 - Doors Open to the Center for Contemporary Culture

Youth Poetry Competition and Welcome Remarks

6:30 - Keynote Address by Claudia Rankine



EventBrite registration is for RSVP only. Tickets do not guarentee a seat. Guests are not required to bring a ticket. Attendees should plan on coming early, as event is first-come/first-served basis. 

Doors open to the public at 6:00 p.m. and seating is available until the Library's Center for Contemporary Culture room reaches capacity.



The Big Read
Claudia Rankine's Citizen: An American Lyric
March 20 Launch, Painting Workshop

Atrium, Downtown
Tuesday, March 20, 3:30-5pm & 6-7:30pm

Join us as we kick off our celebration of Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric, Hartford Public Library’s choice as “The Big Read” for 2018, an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.

Artist Zulynette Morales is holding two painting workshops in the Downtown Atrium from 3:30 to 5 pm and 6-7:30 pm. All materials will be provide. Artwork will be on display in the library through April 26.

Registration is required. Register in advance with Sarah Pelletier at 860-695-6377 or

All branches will have large foam boards with quotes from the book. Participants can share their reactions and thoughts on the boards.

The Big Read Poetry Workshops

YOUmedia, Downtown
Albany, 1250 Albany Avenue

Poets Britanna "Versatile Poetia" Tatum, Zulynettet Morales, and Khaiim "Self Suffice" Kelly (pictured), are running writing workshops for teens, inspired by the themes in Citizen: An American Lyric.  Young poets, ages 13-19, are invited to participate and enter their poems, lyrics, essays or prose based on their experiences with microagression.  Some will be chosen to present in front of author Claudia Rankine at the keynote ceremony in April 26. 

Workshop schedule: YOUmedia on March 6, 6-7:30 pm,  March 14, 5-6:30 pm, and March 22, 6:30 to 8 pm. Albany, March 27, April 3, April 10, 4-5:30 pm.

The Big Read Dance Workshops

Arien Wilkerson, Tnmot Aztro
11 am-1 pm, March 24, April 7, 14, 21
Tainted Studios, 56 Arbor Street

Arien Wilkerson, who leads  Tnmot Aztro Performance Art and Dance Installation, is holding four Saturday dance workshops inspired by the themes of Citizen: An American Lyric. Those completing the four sessions will be invited to perform on April 26 at the  keynote ceremonies. Tnmot Aztro will create the visual landscape of the performance set, sounds, props, sculptures, audience seating, technical runs, and lighting with help of David Borawski and Rickey Silverspoon. Original films and artwork will be on display.

Register here

Weekly Book Discussion for Teens 

YOUmedia Downtown
Every Thursday at 4pm
Join us every Thursday at 4pm in YOUmedia to read passages from Citizen. Share your experiences and reaction to the book, in person, and on our "Big Read Bulletin," a large community board where we want to hear from you! Ages13-19.
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Micro-aggressions in the Latino Community
w/ Constanza Segovia 

Park Branch
Monday March 26, 6-7:30pm

Community conversation on micro-aggressions in the Latino community focusing on excerpts from Citizen, including a community art piece.

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Poets on Poetry: Claudia Rankine 

Classroom 139, Downtown
Saturday, March 31, 10:15am-12:15pm

Poet Kate Rushin will lead the discussion of the Yale professor's book which is written in prose, poems and essays. Partnership with the CT Poetry Society.

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Bomba y Plena Film Screening 

Park Branch
Monday April 9, 6pm

Learn about the history of "Bomba y Plena" - A Puerto Rican dance with African origins, as we learn about the African influence on the Puerto Rican culture. Program presernted in partnership with Cultura Mosaica. 

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Poetry Meetup at Albany

Albany Branch, 1250 Albany Ave.
April 10th,17th & 24th  6-7:30 pm

April is Poetry Month! Join us as we share favorite poems and explore the world of poetry. Bring a poem of your choosing or just show up. 

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“The Citizen’s Lyric: Race, Class, and Policing”
Film Screening of "13th" 

Center for Contemporary Culture, Downtown
Saturday, April 14, 2:00-4:30 pm

In partnership with Hands on Hartford, HPL will screen Ava DuVernay's film "13th" followed by a panel discussion

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Citizen Book Discussion

Campfield Branch, 30 Campfield Avenue
Thursday April 19, 6:30-7:30pm

Join us for a book discussion on Citizen. Share your experiences and reaction to the book, in person, and on our "Big Read Bulletin," a large community board where we want to hear from you!

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Harriet Beecher Stowe Center 
Salon on Citizen

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center 
Thursday April 19, 5:30-7 pm

From Harriet Beecher Stowe to Claudia Rankine writers have called out injustice and inspired action. In Citizen: An American Lyric, Rankine’s subject is race, particularly the racism felt by black people in America. Join the conversation.

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Revolutionary Read

Charter Oak Cultural Center
Thursday April 19, 7-8 pm 

The latest installment of a free community reading series, focused on books that spark revolutionary conversations about social justice.  Join us in the Charter Oak Sanctuary for an interactive lecture about Citizen: An American Lyric.

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The Big Read: Walk About

Albany Branch, 1250 Albany Ave.
Thursday, April 19, 5:30 pm

Can you tell how someone thinks by looking at the way they walk? Does body language reveal what you think about yourself? Can it tell you something about others? Improvisational movement can give you a glimpse into what it’s like to be someone else’s shoes. Everyone is invited to an action packed, rhythmic, improvisational experience, guaranteed to get you thinking about how movement can bring us to a deeper understanding of our place as Citizens. 

Workshop run by Victoria Christgau, pictured, Executive Director of the CT Center for Nonviolence, and Warren Hardy, founder of HYPE.

Claudine Rankine Keynote Address

Center for Contemporary Culture, Downtown
Thursday, April 26, 5:30-7 pm

Join us for an evening with Claudia Rankine, author of Hartford Public Library’s Big Read book for 2018, Citizen: An American Lyric.
Featuring a Citizen-inspired Dance Installation by Tnmot Aztro Performance Art and Dance Installation LLC led by Arien Wilkerson in collaboration with artists Ricky Silverspoon and David Borawski.
Also featuring winners of the city-wide Citizen Youth Slam Poetry Contest, supported by YOUmedia Hartford and as a culmination of workshops by Brittana VersatilePoetiq Tatum, The RapOet (Self Suffice), Zulynette Morales, and Clementine Gant.



Brown Girl Dreaming
Book Giveaway and Poe-Tree Program

Tues | April 10 | 4:30-5:30 | Dwight Branch        
Mon | April 16 | 4:00-5:00 | Albany & Park Branch        
Wed | April 18  | 3:30-4:30 | Camp Field & Ropkins Branch     
Thurs | April 19 | 4:00-5:00 | Barbour Branch        
Thurs | April 5, 12 &19 | 5:30-6:30 | Downtown Branch
Get a free copy of the book (while supplies last) and join us to create your own poetry during our Poe-Tree Program 
Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the  remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. 
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More about the Author

Claudia Rankine, the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale, was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and moved to the Bronx at age 7. She studied with poet Louise Glück at Williams College and cites writers Adrienne Rich and Robert Hass as influences. She is a chancellor with the Academy of American Poets, author of five collections of poetry.

Citizen received the 2016 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt Book Prize for Poetry, the 2015 Forward Price for Poetry, and the 2014 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry.

In 2016 she was awarded a MacArthur “Genius” Grant. In 2017 she started the Racial Imaginary Institute, which she describes as “a moving collaboration with other collectives, spaces, artists, and organizations towards art exhibitions, readings, dialogues, lectures, performances, and screenings that engage the subject of race.”